Rafa Benitez has given his first pre-match press conference of the season and it is obvious that he is pleased to be back in the Premier League. It was an extraordinary decision to stay at Newcastle United after relegation, but he sees the potential of the club and the next step is stabilising at this level.
“I’m really pleased (to be back in the Premier League). When I decided to stay, it was because I wanted to go back to the Premier League with this massive club. We are here, so we’ll try to stay,”
“We have to be sure that every single game, the players will give everything, and myself and my staff will do the same.”
These comments show the Spaniard’s intentions. The first task will be staying up, but privately, he will want to do more than that this season. Benitez is an expert at managing expectations and that is clear from the above quotes. It is quickly becoming a cliché to take one game at a time, but the unpredictability of the Premier League means that it is the best strategy. Although he has a Champions League medal, the Magpies boss realises that he can’t get ahead of himself and focus on each match before concerning himself with an overall goal.
Tottenham are a dangerous team and Benitez was full of praise for Sunday’s opponents. It won’t be easy for the newly-promoted club to secure a positive result, but equally, Spurs won’t be relishing the task of coming to St James’ Park on the opening day.
“I think that Pochettino is a great manager – that is obvious – and they have the same team that was finishing second and third in the last two seasons, so they have a very good team,”
“They have the same manager, the same staff, the same players and more experience in the Premier League, so they will be even more dangerous.”
This is another example of Benitez managing expectations. He is no longer managing one of the best teams in the world, but he has adjusted to his surroundings well. Tottenham supporters have been disappointed that they haven’t been active in the transfer market this summer, but stability can make a team even more dangerous. The Newcastle manager clearly feels this is the case.
The supporters are the main reason that Benitez remains as manager of the football club. He has a great rapport with them and he has made sure to emphasises their importance for the coming season.
“This city deserves a team in the Premier League. The fans are behind the team, the city is behind the team, and that’s massive,”
“Every single game we had 52,000 fans last year, and the away support was amazing, so we have everything. Now we have to be sure that we can perform.”
Benitez knows that the supporters can become a real asset for the team this season. If he can get them to offer unwavering support, even when things are going great on the pitch, St James’ Park can become a fortress. No team will want to go away to Newcastle if the stadium is rocking and this weekend will be an indicator of how good the atmosphere will be this season.